David Sosa, Chief, Office of Regional Planning and Public Transportation
Regional Planning is like a tree, with lots of branches supported by a common trunk.
Caltrans Office of Regional Planning, part of the larger Division of Planning, Transportation and Local Assistance, can be considered a Caltrans think tank. Their mission is: “Creating the Blueprint for Tomorrow’s Transportation System.”
Forecasting multi-modal regional growth for the next 25 to 30 years while considering population increases, residential and commercial developments, and then figuring how freeways, local streets and public transportation will accommodate the changes to best serve the traveling public – takes a lot of thought.
In October, 2008, David Sosa became the Planning Division’s newest office chief of Regional Planning and Public Transportation. Sosa became a Supervising Transportation Planner in 2001 and is made for a job that requires foresight to see trends, imagination to visualize changes, analytical skills to understand data, courage to withstand criticism, and patience to see the plan through to reality.
Sometimes, seeing transportation plans through to fruition is the hardest part, that is, if they are even seen at all.
“Waiting 25 to 30 years to see years of work and efforts becomes, at times, a bit discouraging because you may not be around that long to reap a slight bit of recognition,” says Sosa. “I’m going to work on finding a way to make that happen.”
The Regional Planning and Public Transportation office includes these branches: Regional Planning, Inter-Governmental Review, Goods Movement, Local Assistance, Public Transportation, Community Planning, and a new High-Speed Rail unit working on a rail system that parallels the freeway system from Sacramento to San Diego. Sosa succeeds James McCarthy, the newly appointed Deputy District 7 Director, Planning, Public Transportation and Local Assistance. Prior to that, Sosa was manager of Regional Planning, where he was responsible for the District’s development of the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) and grants administration.
Sosa’s long Caltrans career began in mid-1977, when he joined District 7 as a Graduate Student Assistant in the Office of Program Management. In 1980, he became a full-time Junior Engineering Technician in Project Delivery, then a Right of Way agent for five years in various functions on Route 2, Route 105 and I-710. In 1986, he managed the implementation of personal computers in the Information Center as an Associate Systems Analyst. In 1990, as an Associate Planner, Sosa promoted to the Modeling & Social Economic Analysis unit where he assisted in developing an integrated Socio-Economic and Transportation Model with (SCAG). In 1995, he joined the Regional Planning unit to conduct grant administration through SCAG. He holds a Masters in Public Policy Analysis and Administration along with a Bachelors of Arts Degree in Business Administration from Loyola Marymount University. Sosa met his wife Elizabeth (Liz), at Caltrans. Liz is a legal secretary in the District Office.
“The difficult part of my job is that all the branches in this unit work so well independently. They are not integrated functions; they are not succinct. Each branch supports itself and one function doesn’t happen first and the next one second,” says Sosa. “We are somewhat like a tree with lots of branches, looking for our common trunk to bring the staff together in some way.”
The Planning Division is complex, multi-discipline office involved in many different modes of planning projects to meet future transportation demands. For example, the Community Planning branch may realize the quickest results (five to seven years) in two different ways: issuing grants and going out to communities to seek potential developments. Two interesting projects now in planning include ideas to cap freeways to better connect downtown Ventura to its local beaches and Transit Oriented Developments (TODs). The Public Transportation branch is responsible for planning with regards to multi-modal projects, TODs and administers state and federal funding awards for rail projects and rail procurements. The Inter-governmental Review branch comments on Environmental Impact Reports and determines project mitigation to avoid or minimize potential impacts to Caltrans facilities.
“Externally, we are all working to improve the state-wide transportation system and its needs to better serve the public,” he says. “Internally, this unit will seek ways to attach all the branches in an effort to acknowledge and offer staff recognition for their long-term accomplishments.”
Community planners contact Sosa’s unit to collaborate on city projects that will impact the state freeway and highway system. They are the ones who will with city governments on projects that will better serve its constituents. Such projects may be a new housing development, a commercial shopping center or maybe even a new sports arena.
“We’re not the unit that is out in the field, sending shovel-ready projects out to construction and celebrating completion of a project in two and three years. This unit is working way ahead of the present, way out of the spotlight.”
Thinking ahead and anticipating the next step – as born planners do - he thinks that the next question will be of a personal nature and says, “I can tell you that I don’t bungee jump.”
He is cool and pensive – someone like a favorite football coach that a high school kid admires and will remember fondly and talk about the rest of his life.
Sosa is a bit surprised when someone who he only met for less than an hour discovers not only his hobby, but evidently his passion: football.
“I’ve coached high school football for over 20 years,” he says smiling as the conversation has now switched to football. Sosa has coached at Don Bosco Technical High School in Rosemead, Cathedral High near Los Angeles’ Chinatown, and at Bishop Mora Salesian High in Los Angeles.
Talk of football formally ends a conversation about 25-year planning; it’s now 1999 when his team lost the game (a 23-21 score) by a penalty in the closing seconds at the California Interscholastic Federation Championship game. Ten years have since passed, but it was the big game that still hurts.
For Sosa, it would be exciting to pair his two passions if his unit becomes involved in mitigating a new sports arena --- especially if his favorite team, The San Diego Chargers, comes to town. Maybe then he will bungee jump.